Copic Sketch VS Ciao VS Classic: Which Markers Should You Use?

What Are Copic Markers?

Copics are considered to be the best art markers on the market. They produce a smooth colour application and have effortless blending capabilities.

Copic Markers have an alcohol-based ink that’s acid-free and non-toxic. There are over 350 Copic marker colours that can be purchased in sets or individually

There are three different types of Copic Markers: Copic Classic, Copic Sketch and Copic Ciao. All Copic markers are double-sided with varying nibs, depending on the type of marker you buy.

Copic Classic (Original)

Copic Classic Marker
  • Comes with a Broad Nib and Fine Nib
  • Available in 214 colours
  • Holds the largest amount of ink
  • Most customizable with interchangeable tips

Copic Sketch

Copic Sketch Marker
  • Comes with a Broad Nib and Brush Tip
  • Available in 358 colours, giving Copic Sketch markers the highest catalogue of colours.
  • Hold an average amount of ink

Copic Ciao

Copic Ciao Marker
  • The cheapest out of all the copic markers, making them a great marker to start with.
  • Comes with a Broad Nib and Brush Tip (making them similar to Copic Sketch.)
  • Available in 180 colours
  • Hold the smallest amount of ink
  • Has a super annoying round barrel (that likes to roll off my studio desk and into my dogs waiting mouth) in comparison to the oval shaped sketch barrel and square classic barrel

Empty Copic Wide Marker

Empty Copic Wide Marker

These markers are primarily used to cover large areas of artwork with a consistent stroke. Empty Copic Wide markers are available to buy, which you can fill with the Copic Ink of your choosing.

Copic Ink Refills

12ml Copic Ink Refill Bottle

It’s worth mentioning that all Copic Markers are refillable and as such you do not need to buy a new marker every time the ink runs out. Each 12ml Copic Ink Refill Bottle has enough ink to fill:

Marker TypeApprox. Refills
Copic Classic5 times
Copic Sketch7 times
Copic Ciao9 times
Copic Wide4 times

Copic has released a free app which, among other things, helps you keep track of the markers you buy. 

Lightfastness 

It’s best to not expose your Copic Marker work to light or humidity.

Unfortunately, due to the alcohol-based ink found in Copic Markers they are not fade-resistant. As such this means that over time your artwork will fade when exposed to light or humidity. Once my artwork is finished, I usually scan my artwork onto the computer and store the original in a photo album (manila folders work too!) in order to preserve the colour. Print a copy of your artwork if you want to display it at home.

Copic Marker Nib Shapes

When deciding between Copic sketch vs Ciao vs Classic markers, the nib shape will have a huge influence over your decision. Each one has its own set of advantages. 

Super Brush Nib

Super brush nibs are the most versatile. Similar to a brush (hence the name), you can alternate between thick and thin strokes depending on the amount of pressure you apply.

Copic Sketch and Ciao Markers come with a brush tip, whereas Copic Classics do not (you can however install a brush tip on a Copic Original Marker).  

Broad Nib

Copic’s broad nib is chiselled, letting you create different stroke widths with its versatile surfaces. Though not as versatile as the super brush nib (Broad Tip strokes look a lot more precise compared to the Super Brush Nibs artistics strokes) its great for laying down flat colour and creating strong shading lines (useful for anime style shading). All Copic Markers come with a broad nib end.

Keep in mind that the Broad Nib on Copic Classics are larger than their Copic Sketch and Ciao counterparts. Due to this you’ll need to be careful when buying replacement nibs. If you buy a medium-sized broad nib for your Copic Classic it’s not going to fit.   

Fine Nib

Fine nibs are great for adding small detail to your work. While only Copic Classic Markers are equipped with these, you can buy fine nibs for sketch markers if you want to alternate between the fine nib and super brush. 

Replacing Nibs

You can replace the nibs on your Copic Markers when they wear out by using a pair of tweezers to pull the old nib out by the base. Once you remove the nib, put in the new one using the tweezers. As soon as the new nib is in the marker, ink will start flowing through it.  

The Copic Colour System 

View Copic’s Colour Wheel on their website

Before you start creating Copic Marker Art you need to understand the Copic Colour System, which is defined by a series of letters and numbers.

Colour Family

The letter(s) on your marker represents the colour family it falls into. There are currently 16 Copic Marker colour families:

BG

Blue-Green

B

Blue

BV

Blue-Violet

V

Violet

RV

Red-Violet

R

Red

YR

Yellow-Red

Y

Yellow

YG

Yellow-Green

G

Green

E

Earth Colours

W

Warm Gray

C

Cool Gray

N

Neutral Gray

BV

Toner Gray

F

Fluorescent

Colour Saturation (Blending Group)

The first digit represents the level of saturation of your copic marker. This number range is between 00 and 9, with 00 being the purest form of colour and 9 being most desaturated (with the highest level of gray). 

Colour Value (Intensity Value)

The last digit represents a marker’s colour intensity. Markers that fall closer to the 00 range are  lighter in value, and darker the closer it shifts toward 9. 

Other Copic Marker Products

Copic’s Air Brush system is another option when you need to colour large areas of your artwork. It’s a fantastic tool to use for creating even artwork coverage, unlike Copic Wide markers that leave pressure marks and lines. This also makes the airbrush system great to use when stencilling or masking your artwork.

While I’ve only used the portable Copic ABS Set (their Air Adaptor Set needs to be attached to a compression hose), each system is lightweight and simple to master with practice. 

The airbrush system is compatible with Copic Classic and Sketch markers (not Ciao), and will not damage your markers nibs. Airbrushing uses less ink than colouring with markers due to not needing to saturate the paper.

Using the Copic Airbrush system is simple: simply snap in the Copic Marker you want to use and colour. Start with a light spray and add with discretion (if you add too much ink your artwork will begin to feel tacky).

Airgrip cans last rougly 45 minutes. If your aircan gets cold your spray may become uneven and splotchy. To combat this, leave your airbrush system alone for a couple of minutes to warm back up.

Colourless Blender

Copic Colourless Blender Refill

Don’t let the name fool you. Although Copic calls this marker a Colourless Blender, it’s not used to blend colours together. Rather, this marker works by lifting existing ink off your artwork due to it’s solvent nature.

Because of this I primarily use the Colourless Blender Marker for the following:

  • Creating Texture
  • Creating artwork highlights
  • Fixing Mistakes (such as colouring outside your line art) by cleaning your artwork up
  • Muting colours

Colourless Blender ink can also be used to create a smoother blending transition. To use it, put down a layer of it before you start the blending process. By presoaking your paper, your blending results will be a lot smoother. 

Copic Multiliner Pens

Copic Multiliner Pens come in a broad range of sizes and colours. Multiliner Pens can be used interchangeably with copic markers, as pen lines will not bleed when Copic Marker ink is placed over them.

While I’ve used Copic Multiliner Pens in past artworks, I now prefer to use Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens instead (see my essential list of artwork tools and supplies).

Basic Copic Blending Techniques

Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to learn how to use Copic markers.

  • Make sure your line-art is completely dry before you delve in with Copic markers. If you don’t your artwork will come out a little smudged. 
  • When blending Copic markers, I generally begin with lighter shades, then add darker shades as I progress.
  • Use the lighter colour to blend the section where the two colours meet. 
  • Blend your colours by using a flicking motion. This way you have greater control of your strokes.
  • You can darken the shade of a lighter Copic colour by adding additional layers on top of the first.
  • Dipping the nib of one marker in another ink creates a combination of the two colours, and will add a watercolour effect to your artwork.

Learn How to Use Copic Markers Like a Pro

I hope this Introduction to Copic Marker Article will help you on your way to creating beautiful drawings. Want to know what colours I use to create my Copic marker artworks? Check out my Copic Skin Tone Selection and my Essential Tools and Supplies for more information.

If you’d like to discover how to use Copic Markers more effectively, check out my Learn How to Colour Course